So, who’s going to cough for this?

October 12th 2017

On 25th September 2017 Gwen Richards found this object on the top of a hill not far from her home at Torbreck (NC0823). First question – is it a pellet or a scat, the first from the front end of a bird, the second from the back end of a mammal? Answer – a fresh pellet, which given its size (about 5cm) and texture is almost certainly from the only bird she has ever seen perched there, a hooded crow (Corvus cornix).

Second question – what has it been eating? The obvious components are the skins of rowan berries, which are ripe at the moment. Fortunately she had collected it for further study, since amongst these skins were dark bluish-black fragments of some large beetles, which she passed on to Ian, to compare with his reference collection.

The most readily identifiable shards were the shoulders of the left wing-cases of two members of the genus Carabus, which includes our largest ground beetles. That on the right is dark, with numerous, fairly even, rows of small bumps or granulations, and is from Carabus problematicus, one of three species that occur frequently in moorland habitats hereabouts. That on the left is bronzy, with a much bolder pattern of three keels, separating single rows of large pits. This is from Carabus clatratus, the largest species of all, up to 30mm long overall, which is found on bogs and wet moorland and at the edges of lochs and burns. It is restricted to Ireland and the north-west of Scotland, and local records are few.

An interesting window on the seasonal diet of this opportunistic omnivore.

 Gwen Richards and Ian M. Evans


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